Editor's note: Jerry Newberry, communications director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and host of The National Defense radio show, journeyed to Iraq for the first time this past March. An Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Newberry is going to battle once again and expanding his reporting duties in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Newberry will be donning his battle fatigues for five weeks, beginning this week. His first report is below.
September 18, 2006
Getting ready for the second time around isn't proving to be any easier than the first trip. Seems as if the experience gained from the first journey has grown the "to do" list by a mile, especially since this trip entails being embedded in two separate theatres with different geographic and weather environments. My mantra for packing has always been less is best, but these dual environments mandate I pack enough appropriate clothing and gear to cover both situations.
Have I mentioned that there won't be any bellhops waiting for tips where I'm going!! There is no such thing as a bellhop in the battlefield. You lug what you bring!
And of course there are other details that need tending to: Paying bills (some in advance), making arrangements for the cat, stopping mail delivery, cleaning the house. Checking and double-checking the equipment: recorder, camera, batteries. Packing the rucksack: passport, long-sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, socks, skivvies, toothbrush, wet weather gear, sleeping bag, pants...
Waiting for the departure day has been the worst part. Not much different than the pre-deployment days of Vietnam. At least this time I know the unit and the mission.
Anticipation, questions, curiosity... anxiety level starting to climb... not out of fear, more from thinking about the travel: KC/Chicago/London/Delhi/Kabul then back via Delhi/Doha/Kuwait/Baghdad... waaah!
And what the hell am I whining about? Think about what deployment means to thousands of the "Joes" and the "Janes" who are deployed for months on end? Think about all of the particulars they have to take care of and the dangers they face...
Why again am I going? Short answer. Because the media does a lousy job of reporting the stories of U.S. servicemembers and what they do. For the most part, the wars being fought by OUR people in Afghanistan and Iraq - their successes, heroism, and valor - is reported by some overpaid, makeup-wearing talking heads, sitting on their fat rear-ends in an air-conditioned hotel. They rely on Iraqi stringers to bring the stuff to them and then call it reporting. And what we end up with is a short scroll across the bottom of the TV screen. What we get is crap.
And it seems that as a consequence Americans don't get it. They don't get that we are at war with an enemy that is overly committed and over-zealous in its desire to destroy our way of life. Pure and plain, they don't get that we are at war with a bunch of evil SOB's that want to kill all of us... no exemptions to the rule.
It seems as though the majority of Americans don't have a clue as to what it means to be a soldier. They sure as hell seem oblivious to the values learned and maintained by our Armed Forces: duty, respect, loyalty, service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The same values carried over to civilian life by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Why go again? Why not? Look, the leaders of VFW believe in the organization's mission to assist those who deserve it most. They don't just talk the talk when it comes to providing support to the people who have and are still serving this nation.
I believe in this mission too. And there's nothing wrong with believing in something.